Talks break down between OCI, union

Daniel
Daniel MacEachern
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Union president accuses company of union busting

The president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers (FFAW) union accused Ocean Choice International on Monday of union-busting, after talks to resolve the Newfoundland Lynx dispute broke down.

“The company is not serious about trying to resolve this,” union president Earle McCurdy said at a news conference Monday afternoon at the union office on Hamilton Avenue in St. John’s. “They’re interested in nothing less than capitulation, not negotiation. So this dispute is going to continue.”

McCurdy said the union “pushed them hard” in talks to try to resolve the dispute to avoid disruption to the raw material supply for Ocean Choice’s inshore plants.

“But they leave no recourse when they sail a boat with scab labour, and after two months of dispute put an offer on the table that’s worse than the offer they had at the start of the dispute.”

 

The crew of the Newfoundland Lynx has been locked out since Feb 5. In February, union members and other protesters were arrested in Bay Roberts while trying to prevent replacement workers from boarding the vessel. Unionized trawlermen boarded the ship last month while it was docked in Nova Scotia, and say they convinced six replacement workers to leave the Lynx, while Ocean Choice suggested those who left had been bribed.

The union has three main sticking points in Ocean Choice’s latest offer, dated March 28, including a provision that would make the agreement applicable only to the Newfoundland Lynx, and not to any of Ocean Choice’s other shrimp vessels.

“If we acquiesced to that, what’s to stop them tomorrow from taking that boat and putting it under a numbered company — and they’re quite experienced in dealing with numbered companies, they have several of them — and then saying, ‘Well, that’s no longer an OCI boat,’ and put a different name on it and then say, ‘Sorry, boys. You’re not in the collective agreement’?”

Another “showstopper,” according to McCurdy, is an amendment that would exclude the second mate, second engineer and charge hand from the bargaining unit when vacancies occur in those positions. “In other words, people who have been in our union since they started working on those boats, suddenly they just say, ‘We’re going to terminate those positions from the bargaining unit.’”

Finally, Ocean Choice has included a provision that the union will support Ocean Choice in getting an exemption from the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture on the minimum processing requirements of redfish, in the form of a written letter. McCurdy accused Ocean Choice — and its CEO, Martin Sullivan — of shutting down the province’s groundfish industry.

“They’ve closed Marystown, they obviously have no interest whatsoever in the people of Marystown, not lifting a finger to help them,” he said. “They never did have any interest in Fortune. That was always a straw man. Even now they’re out talking with non-union buyers to try to move yellowtail in there rather than in Fortune. And to suggest that in the face of them turning their back on the people in those plants, that we would endorse an exemption to allow them to land all redfish in the province and export it without a single pound going through a plant? When they’ve turned their back on those plant workers and those communities? You’ve got to be joking, Mr. Sullivan.”

McCurdy said the dispute isn’t about management’s rights, as he said Sullivan has indicated, or fishing redfish. “This is about Ocean Choice International engaging in union busting. I’ve never dealt, in 35 years in this business, never dealt with such an anti-union company in all that time as Ocean Choice International and the principals in that company.”

A spokeswoman for Ocean Choice said the company learned talks had broken down only through media reports that the union said negotiations had halted, and was preparing its response. Representatives for Ocean Choice were not available for comment Monday.

 

dmaceachern@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Organizations: Allied Workers, Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture

Geographic location: Hamilton Avenue, Bay Roberts, Nova Scotia Marystown

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Recent comments

  • response to "you"
    April 04, 2012 - 00:45

    you said "how then do you expect the ordinary worker whose salary you are advocating to be lowered to afford to keep buying those expensive goods that are produced from expensive manipulated commodities".....that is a good question, and I don't really care if certain people cannot afford to buy those goods....while some may not be able to afford it, others will. My customers can be located anywhere in the world. I don't really care if they are from Canada or Asia. Cash is cash. As long as people in NL keep thinking they are owed a living, investors will continue to run in the other direction. As an investor, I would never consider operating in NL. And as a consultant, I have constantly reminded clients that there is a whole labour pool in the global market place that is willing to work for less. I remind that that Canadians are great workers, but in regards to the unskilled uneducated workers, there is NOTHING that an unskilled uneducated Canadian can do that a unskilled uneducated worker from Asia or a Right to Work can do for less. I used to have an operation many provinces.....used to pay Canadian minimum wage....plus EI...plus CPP....plus vacation pay....I moved all the offices to various right to work states, I pay close to $8...all in....no unions to negotiate with, no wage increases for unskilled uneducated workers. I advise all business to do the same until Canadian unskilled workers start accepting the low wages that correspond to their low skillset. I dont believe that all workers should be treated this way...only the unskilled uneducated workers..the useless ones.....I pay my IT staff 6 figure salaries...and they have me manage the technology that allows companies to keep the head office/management/good jobs in Canada and conduct the part of the operation with the the crappy front line menial work in cheaper jurisdicitons. Again, I say why pay more when you can pay less

  • Duffy
    April 03, 2012 - 20:35

    OCI hold fast. The public is tired of supporting the fisherpeople for the past 20 years. The "McCurdy" union is out of control and believe they own the seas!

  • You
    April 03, 2012 - 10:56

    GOOD FOR OCI - You asked the question "Why would anyone want to pay more for labour when you can get it for less"? Governments are manipulating Oil and other commodities so that they stay elevated in price, so how then do you expect the ordinary worker whose salary you are advocating to be lowered to afford to keep buying those expensive goods that are produced from expensive manipulated commodities? The Capital Markets also depend on everything remaining the same or they will collapse and so will the Pension Plans, that you could be vested in. With your suggestion everything will fall out of the orbit they have been manipulated into because the average worker will not be earning enough to keep the economies buoyant. You better watch what you say or you may get it. The Memory of October 2008 Market Crash must still be fresh in your mind!

  • We have to be VIGILANT to ensure that our Unions are NOT BUSTED by large Corporations
    April 03, 2012 - 08:54

    We have to be vigilant, we cannot let the big Corporations have their own way with the Unions. If we let the big corporations have their way, they will bust every Union that is presently in operation, since that is what Crony/Corrupt Capitalism is all about. Crony Governments appoint crony-Ambassadors to assist in doing their dirty deeds to achieve those means. The Unions will be busted first, then there will be far fewer Corporations, since the bigger Corporations will eat up the smaller ones through mergers and acquisitions. I just read an article recently that said the Agriculture Industry will be whittled down to 6 or 7 large Global Corporations having total control over that Sector. All the other Sectors will be no different, they will follow the same pattern. That is what Crony/Corrupt Capitalism is all about.

  • We have to be VIGILANT to ensure that our Unions are NOT BUSTED by large Corporations
    April 03, 2012 - 08:53

    We have to be vigilant, we cannot let the big Corporations have their own way with the Unions. If we let the big corporations have their way, they will bust every Union that is presently in operation, since that is what Crony/Corrupt Capitalism is all about. Crony Governments appoint crony-Ambassadors to assist in doing their dirty deeds to achieve those means. The Unions will be busted first, then there will be far fewer Corporations, since the bigger Corporations will eat up the smaller ones through mergers and acquisitions. I just read an article recently that said the Agriculture Industry will be whittled down to 6 or 7 large Global Corporations having total control over that Sector. All the other Sectors will be no different, they will follow the same pattern. That is what Crony/Corrupt Capitalism is all about.

  • Good for OCI
    April 03, 2012 - 08:44

    I am happy to hear that OCI is holding strong. The reality is that they have replacement workers, and no longer need the union workers. As far as I am concerned, the union workers are the old, less efficient tools that have been replaced by newer, faster, better, and cheaper tools. I fully support OCI's decision and bargaining position, and advise them accordingly to never reach an agreement. Why would anyone want to may more for labour when you can get it for less. I sure know I wouldn't. That is why I invest in right to work states where I as a business owner have complete control over wages and operations. Also, this is an example of why I don't invest in resources......when you invest in resources, the workers certainly do have leverage because the resource is tied to a location. I only invest in industries where technologies enable me to have an office set up in 3-5 days in another part of the work...I only invest in industries where the workers cannot have leverage. As long as Newfoundland has a reputation for unions that impede efficient business decisions, it will be difficult for the province to attract new business investment. I actually do some consulting, and I actually talked a client OUT of investing in newfoundland. why, because in my opinion, they could make more money elsewhere. Investors invest to make profits, not to create jobs for people.